He draws us to some high school science. The process of photosynthesis is known to us all, using carbon dioxide and water and the energy from sunlight to produce their carbohydrates, as plants and blue-green micro-organisms do. The main 'waste product' of this process is oxygen gas.
Without oxygen breathing life, the Earth went from having no oxygen in the atmosphere to being 'polluted' (oxygen) to the huge extent of approximately 20% (200,000 parts per million) of oxygen in the atmosphere. This, enabled large animals to use this energy resource; and in the case of humans, enabled them to live and prosper.
By contrast, the concentration of carbon dioxide is now reduced from its early high values and is down to about 3-one-hundredths of one percent (300 parts per million). The argument is whether it has increased by about 50 ppm since the industrial revolution. Compare this with 200,000 ppm of oxygen, from nothing at all.
The relative amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphere can be imagined by comparing the distance from Sydney to Canberra (approximately 300 km) with the distance beyond the Earth and half way to the moon (approximately 200,000 km).
However, this 'measuring amounts' does not tell the whole story, comments Mark Tronson. Small or minute quantities of reactive or dangerous gases can have a bigger influence than large amounts of 'neutral' gases, such as nitrogen (which makes up 80% of the atmosphere).
It is because of these very small amounts of carbon dioxide that we have a relatively 'even' temperature on the Earth, compared with the Moon or other planets in a similar situation in their own area of Space. This is called the natural 'greenhouse effect'.
It is also because of these few molecules of carbon dioxide that plants can produce the food that we need, for our voracious consumption of carbohydrate that humans and the animals require, which, when oxidised using oxygen as a fuel, produces our energy.
This of course, is high school science. The language of science and this world wide debate however can be confusing.
[ M V Tronson points out that the science suggests that before animals the original atmosphere was much richer in carbon dioxide than today. It assumes a much longer period of time than the Genesis six days of creation and therefore requires many more answers and ideas for the innumerable issues. The nature of science assumes there are constantly new discoveries. ]
Now, a student of history such as M V Tronson has noted that humans have relentlessly sought to improve their lives. Every recent generation at least, has used more technology, therefore more energy, than every previous generation, and the waste products of any use of energy is often 'pollution'. This has been noticeable since humans settled in communities and started farming.
It is also speculated by 'scientists' and 'historians' that various historical anomalies were partly caused by pollution – slow, insidious lead poisoning of the Roman elite, for example, is thought to have hastened the decline of the Roman Empire, as ingested lead can affect the human brain. [Certainly the civil service collapsed which consisted of the smartest and best in the Empire.]
Pollution has been even more noticeable since the industrial revolution in the eighteenth century and it is now a global issue. In the past, it was mostly seen only at local levels, as documented by many social commentators, including writers such as Dickens and Richard Llewellyn (who wrote "How Green was my Valley" in 1939) and many others.
Mark Tronson is interested in discussing the moral obligations that we all have to minimise dangerous pollution in general, whatever the arguments are about whether or not human production of carbon dioxide is adding substantially to 'global warming', as at the Copenhagen Conference. He comments that this is not the only type of pollution.
Forty years ago when he was working as a locomotive engineman, he worked steam locomotives, and he noted the black soot, the smell and the general pollution produced by these monsters; wonderful machines though they were. When he worked the shunting engines at Port Kembla North's shunting yards on still nights, the pollution from the steel works would be all over the shunting yard. One could taste it. This would be the partially burnt coal and other fuels from the large furnaces, producing the steel to enable Australia's great industrial and economic growth of that time.
He notes that Australia cannot necessarily be proud of its record about other types of pollution either – that the first settlers managed to pollute the Tank Stream in Sydney, the only source of fresh water at the time, not once but several times.
There are, however, several immediate considerations, in M V Tronson's view as to dealing with pollution. He has noted again from history that human ingenuity can devise ways of cleaning up pollution. In London within the last one hundred years (a very short time in historical context), the infamous 'pea-souper' smogs have been stopped and the River Thames has been cleaned up.
Electric and diesel trains are 'cleaner' than the coal-fired trains in many cities of the world – but it remains a moot point on a global scale how much pollution is produced (or how much better it can be controlled) when the coal is burnt at a centralised electricity-generating station instead of in the train (steam / diesel / electric locomotive).
However, scientists continue their research, and since World War II with the advancement of technology, there are now other alternatives to coal in the production of power. These include nuclear power, sun or solar power, wind power, vegetable power, geothermal power, and others still in the pipeline.
Some of these current advances can be used by individuals and small businesses without any great change to their high standard of living. M V Tronson says that his Tweed Heads home has the most simple solar hot-water panels, as did previous houses he has lived in over the past thirty years. These help reduce his electrical power bills; a sure sign he is using less electricity and producing less pollution than he would with gas or electric hot water.
He also notices that the sugar mill thirty minutes away near Murwillumbah converts the waste materials from the inedible sugar cane into electrical power, thus saving coal and reducing waste that goes to landfill and pollutes land and water as it decays.
These aspects of pollution emissions are just a few of the issues in the current debate. The extreme positions are those that claim the 'sky is falling' and who lobby to see this position endorsed by Governments with deep pockets. The other extreme is that pollution does no harm to the wider environment at all.
But there are two other issues to the debate which has received considerable publicity in the main stream media and in Christian circles. First, the responsibility we as human beings have to ensure the environment is sustained for our own children and their children's children.
Second, is the worry about the extent to which the 'environment debate' is being hijacked by those whose agendas may not be as pure as it might first appear. Sections of the national media have picked up on this as has sections of the Christian church.
Several reporters, such as the Australian newspaper columnist, Janet Albrechtsen, challenge readers to re-think the current popular view, referring to the United Nation's "Copenhagen plot" which, she claims, could result in a world wide centralisation of power with taxing authority. Sydney radio personality Alan Jones agrees with her in principle. Numerous Christians have serious concerns associated with 'world' political authority going awry.
In the Australian scene, Australian Liberal Party changed their leader recently, reflecting a more conservative position about the proposed 'cap and trade' scheme to 'make polluters pay'. Mark Tronson, himself, wonders if there are other tax regimes that may ensure a better way forward. He would like to see further conversations about how the Government (or other major Governments) can ensure that useful technologies are not being held back by lack of investment partners.
He commends the recent questioning of 'received wisdom', where views from extreme polarities have been aired and people are allowed to present their 'evidence', as showing how powerful democracy can be.